Rachael’s Thoughts on Parshat Vayeshev

In this week’s Torah portion, Vayeshev, we read the familiar story of Joseph and his brothers — drama and plot lines weaving themselves into one of the most complex stories of sibling rivalry in any of our texts.  Jacob favours Joseph, and consequently his brothers hate him.  They plot to kill Joseph, and ultimately compromise by selling him into slavery.  How did Jacob not see it coming?

Even more astounding is that the Torah shows us Jacob as a man with a shrewd understanding of people.  He managed his father-in-law, Lavan, even though Lavan himself was very shrewd.  Jacob understood how to reconcile with his twin, Esau, despite decades of estrangement and resentment.  Jacob knows how families function, so what blinded him to the problems he was setting up with his own children?

There’s a midrash that speaks of the connection between Jacob and Joseph.  It tells us a small detail that unlocks everything.  Apparently, Joseph looked exactly like his mother, Rachel.  Jacob had one true love in his life, the matriarch Rachel, who died in childbirth years before.  There was only one way for Jacob to ever see Rachel’s face again and that was to look at Joseph.  Rachel was Jacob’s blind spot and Joseph paid the price.

The problem here is that Jacob looks at his son and sees the past, he sees the love he had, the love he lost.  When a parent looks at their child they should see the future that is to unfold, and Jacob is unable to do that.  Because Jacob can only see the past, he unknowingly causes the painful future they will all face.

The Jewish world we bring to our children should be an anchor for them, never a burden.  The legacy of Judaism opens a world of spirituality and wonder for our children.  Jacob couldn’t see it, and we all learn from him to carry Jewish history with us, but always seek the beauty of future moments. 

I’d like to wish everyone a sweet and peaceful Shabbat –our Jewish time to regroup, rest, and reinvigorate.

Shabbat shalom,


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